Your phone is blinding you, scientists warn

By New York Post

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(NEW YORK POST) – A new study says that smartphones may ruin your eyesight.

Researchers at the University of Toledo, in Ohio, have found that exposure to blue-light — the glow emitted from most smartphones, tablets and laptops — promotes the growth of “poisonous molecules” in your eyes, leading to macular degeneration.

“It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina,” professor and study co-author Ajith Karunarathne said about the study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

His team explains that blue light is especially dangerous for our eyes because, unlike other types of light, the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it.

That gives the light a straight shot to the eye’s photoreceptors — light-sensitive cells in the retina. Overburdening those cells — say, by bathing them in blue light as you check your
Instagram feed for the thousandth time that day — can cause them to produce a toxic chemical, causing macular degeneration and even loss of vision.

But Dr. Christopher Starr, ophthalmologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, says that because tests were not performed on human eyes, the results offer “no causal link” between macular degeneration and blue lights yet: “To make a statement or conclusion that blue lights from our phones and computers is going to cause macular degeneration is patently false and should not raise worldwide concerns about digital devices.”

Starr says that a non-physiologic study such as this would not warrant the Academy of Ophthalmology to update their screen-time recommendations, which maintains that staring at your device screens for long periods of time won’t cause permanent eye damage. He also adds, “The sun … certainly has much higher level of [blue light] than one gets from their digital devices.”

Still, even the speculation is alarming to researchers.

“Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye,” says Kasun Ratnayake, a Ph.D. student who worked on the study. “When they’re dead, they’re dead for good.”

Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, with about 200,000 cases reported per year cannot be cured, although it can be treated with glasses, medications or laser surgery. Karunarathne hopes that their research may encourage other scientists to look into developing an eye drop to shield eyes against blue light.

In the meantime, the researchers recommend preventative measures, including wearing sunglasses that filter UV and blue light, and avoiding reading mobile devices in the dark, which causes additional strain on delicate photoreceptors.

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